Academics are now finding white supremacy under the medieval studies bed. As Campus Reform reports, some professors of the period fear that the forces of the “alt-right” are using using this storied age to advance a dangerous “white supremacist fantasy.”
Vassar College professor Dorothy Kim issued this dire warning to The Chronicle of Higher Education last Sunday: “It should be a really, really important time to reflect on why are these things going on and what we can do to combat that. The worry I would have is that, is the field going to be forever linked to white supremacy?”
Kim was commenting on an article that details the apparently sinister events that occurred when author Vincent van Gergen Oei attended the annual International Medieval Conference in England.
The scholar noted at one point that every last speaker lined up to talk about “otherness” in the Mediterranean share one thing in common: they were all white. Oei’s suspicions were further heightened when the the moderator at the conference referenced his sun tan by saying he was looking at lot less like an “old white man.”
Oei insists this is no laughing matter. “Whether or not he intended it as a joke, it obviously ridicules the entire importance of race in this debate, as if it was merely a matter of lying in the sun,” Oei said. “I was thinking I could do two things: Either I can just get up and leave, and it will be very awkward, or I can tweet about this.”
They lack of diversity at a conference studying an age that provided little diversity, outraged others of those in attendance who said this specialization has become too “Eurocentric” and “male dominated.”
Some charged that this conformity is all the fault of the conference organizers because “the IMC simply chose to ignore the expertise of people of color and ‘others’ whose knowledge on issues of race and otherness has informed decades of scholarship,” said Jonathan Hsy, a George Washington University English professor.
But it’s not just the whiteness of the conference. Some professors insist white supremacist movement is using “alt-right forums” to shamelessly use the Medieval period to trumpet their ideology — which they say is completely inappropriate.
The University of Toronto’s Medieval studies director, Suzanne Akbari, called the white supremacist wish-dream a “fantasy” because the period “is actually highly integrated, highly diverse, with a tremendous amount of cultural interchange.”
Medieval period scholar Eileen Joy even suggests that the historical epoch attracts people who are resistant to change.
“The field has been rather proud of its resistance to critical theory, which then just attracts even more people to the field who themselves want to be resistant to theory and see medieval studies as a safe place — a safe place to be elitist, a safe place to be white, a safe place to be Christian, Eurocentric, misogynist, etc.,” she told the Chronicle.